Empowering and Supporting Youth

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Empowering and Supporting Youth

Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • How can educational system reform help to fulfill the mission of truth and reconciliation?
  • How should governments facilitate the process of empowering youth in truth and reconciliation efforts?
  • What role should non-profit organizations play?
  • How would the approaches to engage youth in reconciliation differ at local, national and international levels?
  • Share stories of success.


These are all good questions!

These are all good questions! I think education systems certainly have a role to play in contributing towards transitional justice processes, including truth and reconciliation. I also think that education can be a focus for transitional justice - often, the truth needs to be told about the ways that education has played a role in contributing to violence, conflict or injustice. If these legacies of conflict in education aren't addressed as part of wider processes of transition, this can hinder even the most dynamic and inspiring pedagogical and classroom based processes.

many forms of education

I fully agree.  I would just underline that there are many forms of education that both complement and suplement the traditional educational systems (that certainly require reform in many ways).  I would suggest also seeking out "reconciliation" and "sensitization" workshops with youth groups, religious groups, athletics and sports facilities and clubs and even seek out workshops or trainings that can be added on after school.  These things could be done simultaneously with efforts to reform schooling systems. 

Great questions!

Great questions! This is definintely what we are working on here, in Canada. We are attempting to reconcile education, with more education. We are constantly adapting ways to teach the difficult histories and colonial histories, by trying not to replicate injustices but also face contemporary impacts from these histories, directly. The residential school- education system for Indigenous peoples in Canada (1880s-1996) created trends and cycles in colonial, historic, physical, sexual and psychological violence in Canada. These systems were similar to other educational systems for Indigenous children around the world. Integrating lessons on the historical violence, contemporary violence and various versions of reconciliation in classroms, in curricula and teacher training are essential here, but also, are ever-changing. Luckily, youth have been quite involved in the development of education/learning programs and that has helped develop programs, a great deal. 

Creative ways of identifying needed curriculum changes

I found these comments on the changes needed within educational systems regarding ways to teach difficult histories very interesting.

I ran across this information about the use of theater approaches to engage youth and communities to explore difficult histories. The War Trauma Foundation has been using a "Narrative Theatre" community dialogue approach and War Child’s methodology "Performing for Peace" approach. Here is an example from Lebanon of using this approach that has been youth led:  "Dealing with taboos: a story from the field on youth led theatre and dialogue in Lebanon" available in Intervention 2014, Volume 12, Number 1, Page 88 - 90. One of the outcomes of the process was the identification of the need to reform the educational curriulcum and teach young people about Lebanon's civil war history, which is never mentioned in schools.

Are others using the creative arts - in formal or informal education processes - or have other examples of how youth are using the creative arts to advance truth and reconciliation efforts?

Members tagged in this comment: 
This sounds wonderful, Tricia

This sounds wonderful, Tricia. I was born and raised in Canada and have had the privilege to explore education and TJ issues in several contexts, but not in Canada. I know that amazing work is happening and I love thinking about the opportunities that young people have in their classrooms to discuss and grapple with these histories and their legacies - opportunities that were much less common when I was at school. Drawing on Rainer's points above, do you see work happening outside of the formal sector as well?

One example, to start

Hi Julia - We do see a lot of work happening outside the formal sector. I'll start with one example from the city where I live, here in Winnipeg. I will try to add more as I think of them. In Winnipeg there are human rights violations and issues similar to other large cities and communities in Canada, focused on violence, domestic violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, poverty and racial discrimination on a number of levels. Youth in the North End of Winnipeg started a 'Meet me at the Belltower' movement in 2011 in response to violence in Winnipeg's North End. As an anti-violence movement, the event has branched out throughout the city and connected with various movements in Winnipeg (ie. Bear Clan Patrol). With a youth focus and originally created by local youth, it is an exceptional example of anti-violence advocacy and community mobilization. If you go through some of the links below you can see how the 'Meet me at the Belltower' campaign has motivated a series of events and provides information to anyone wishing to start a rally or movement of their own. ( see under the tab ideaz: #waterwednesdays, village walk)






Inspiring, Tricia. Thank you

Inspiring, Tricia. Thank you for sharing!

Focusing on the process

For those of us who work in international organizations, I think it's really important to think carefully about how to facilitate genuine youth engagement. How can we open a space and structure for youth to engage in truth and reconciliation processes on their terms, not ours? With tight timelines and pre-determined project cycles there is a risk that we can indirectly impose a specific direction or output that fits within our ideas, but may not actually resonate best with the local context, needs, challenges, and opportunities. How can we set up a project that focuses on a consultative process and leaves the final product open to being determined by the youth themselves? In my work one element I have found to be effective and helpful in this regard is to focus on determing clear objectives together with the participants and on that basis of shared goals, giving them space to try different methods and being open to seeing which resonate most with the participants and their contexts.

Do you have strategies or successful examples to share?

Process matters

I fully agree Virginie.  We need more holistic and participative processes that include (and empower) youth in meaningful ways. They need to be co-creating and co-designing both the goals and outcomes.

 In terms of participative strategies that put youth and adults on the same playing field I have come across the particpative methods of www.ica-uk.org.uk in facilitation.

Also, the www.thevalueweb.org has great facilitation/design/process stuff

In terms of monitoring and evaluating two great strategies I have found are www.senseguide.nl/what-is-sensemaker/   and www.communityresponsemap.org

Participatory processes for youth/all ages identified responses

Thanks for sharing these participatory processes - the more tools in our toolbox the better!

In case you haven't had the chance to explore more of our New Tactics resources, I would like to draw you attention to the New Tactics Strategic Effectiveness Method and our Strategy Toolkit. We have found that all age groups, but particularly youth (in the broad definition used in the Middle East for youth that reaches up to age 35) find that our 5 step method makes it possible for everyone to participate - from the first step of deciding on what problem they want to address, to the concrete actions they want to take to move toward the vision they want to achieve.

Regarding evaluation methods with young people - I ran across this resource: "Youth Participation Guide for Participatory Evaluation with Young People" and "Facilitators Guide for Participatory Evaluation with Young People".

I hope others will share additional resources they already use or have come across.

Members tagged in this comment: 
Potential conflicts

Rainer, I think that is a really good suggestion to seek out "reconciliation" and "sensitization" workshops outside school. At the same time, it can be quite challenging for youth to be initiative enough or aware enough to seek out this kind of opportunities in their community. How should the educational systems work together with local workshops outside school? What are other ways that we can encourage youth to seek out the history and the "truth"? 

Also, in many countries, public and private education are two separate systems. While government can facilitate the process of empowering youth in truth and reconciliation efforts through the public educational system, the private educational system could be left behind. What could be possible ways to reconcilie these conflicts?

Do you have strategies or examples to share? 



Thought provoking comments,

Thought provoking comments, all! 

Interestingly, in some of the contexts that I'm familiar with either through my own research experience or through reading the research of others, some of the most inspiring approaches to talking about conflict and difficult histories happen in private schools (this is certainly something I've seen in Colombia and Peru). The government can facilitate processes through public education, but it doesn't always do so - indeed, it often has political motivations not to do so, if doing so involves acknowledging human rights violations, etc. committed by government, especially if there hasn't been a complete change in who holds positions of power in government, military, etc. Also, public schools and teachers are often under so many other pressures (limited resources, underpaid teachers, pressurised systems with high stakes tests, etc.) that it is easier for private schools to develop their own initiatives. 


Considering the links between education and conflict

Some of you have highlighted the role of education in promoting peacebuilding and reconciliation. The potential of education as a force for good is undeniable.

The critical interconnection between education and violence is illustrated, for instance, by the fact that approximately half of the world’s out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict -- the majority of them are in Africa, which is, incidentally, where I do most of my work.

At the same time, I think that it is also important to recognize that one of the primary functions of education systems is to serve as political and social control mechanisms. Education is always culturally embedded and politically delivered; it can serve as a destabilizing force when sensitive issues and the memory of a shared violent past are unsuitably addressed. Unequal educational access and negative teaching, for instance, may actually instigate, propagate, and contribute to violent struggle.

Some recent studies – including my own work – suggest that, under certain circumstances, access to education is positively correlated with support for the use of political violence, including extremist violence.

Any thoughts? 

Still thinking about this

I've been thinking about this a lot and it is definitely something we grapple with on a daily or near-daily basis. Especially as we create educational initiatives for reconciliation, while also attempting not to replicate colonial models and working to end cycles of violence. Education undoubtedly tipped off several decades of cyclical violence here and trying to use education as a means of ending those cycles is no doubt, problematic. I'm not sure if I have a good answer at this stage, but I wanted to comment and note that it is a constant balancing act, I think. Attempting to dismantle destructive colonial models of education inside existing systems of colonial governance has met both successes and barriers. Where we have been able to use traditional or Indigenous (non-Western) forms of knowledge and find spaces (large and small) inside our existing education systems, there have been good paths forward. This gives me a lot to think about and it's really encouraging to see you raise the same questions that we are. Even if I struggle for an answer, it's good to see the question come up.

Linking TJ and Education

Given some of the challenges mentioned above, all too often, I think the link between transitional justice processes and edcuation has not been sufficinetly considered or inlcuded in programming efforts. Over the past few years, at ICTJ we wanted to strenghten that connection and see how those two areas could be better linked in practice. In partnership with UNICEF we undertook an extensive study looking at several different contexts to better understand the link between transitional justice and education, and how practioners in both fields can leverage that connection in order to advance goals of justice and reconciliation. The result of that project is a book (http://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/A92FAE86-F19A-E611-80C2-005056AB0BD9/) and report ( https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-UNICEF-Report-EducationTJ-2015.pdf) which are both freely available online. Information about the entire project, along with summaries of some of the case studies is available at: https://www.ictj.org/our-work/research/education-peacebuilding

In response to Julia's point about the possibility to achieve greater success in private schools in some contexts, I fully agree, in part because of the point raised by Marisa, that education is political, and those in power will use it to their advantage and to communicate their vision of the nation state. However, in Kenya, we learned that education, both public and private, is highly centralized, and as a result we were unable to get our booklet about the TJRC, Learning from Our Past: An Exploration of Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Kenya, (https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Kenya-Learning-From-Our-Past-2015.pdf ) into schools because all materials need to be approved by the central authority, even for private schools. In that case we had more success working with local youth groups and orgnaizations focused on civic engagement. Hopefully in time space will open up within the formal edcuation sector to discuss the TJRC report, but for now, it clearly is too fresh and too divisive.

One key lesson we took away from this experience is the importance of conducting a full mapping of the education system in a specific country, in order to understand how much flexibility or not teachers have to introduce new materials, where decisions are made about new curriculem, and very importantly, what level of teacher training and professional development is avialable or possible to support teachers in effectively leading critical discussions about the past in a way that encourages civic engagement among their students.


In Multi-cultural Context

Hi Virginie, the example you provide in Kenya is very interesting. It is often easy to forget that we are working in a multi-cultural context, where different policies from the government and various cultural expectations from the community can lead to very different tactics that can be applicable. In China, public education is also higly centralized, which makes materials harder or takes a much longer time to be approved by the government. At the same time, a strict and very competitive system leading to college education also prevents teachers and students from awaring the importance of these topics and initiating any kinds of projects to promote these. Human rights activitists have been proposing to set up truth and reconiliation consil regarding cultural revolution and 1989 protest, but the government is still lacking of action so far. Could anyone share examples of truth and reconciliation happened in a multi-cultural context and how the approaches were different?